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Unintentional Conversations

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Gibbs was impressed with the extraction team. As soon as Ulman was dead, Gibbs and his team were rounded up, shoved on C-130 and whisked back to D.C. They were off-loaded at the Navy airstrip and driven back to NCIS.

They were given something to eat and a couple bottles of water each on the plane, but what Gibbs really would have liked was a shower. He would have liked to have better medical attention than a SEAL with a few first aid classes under his belt for his team even more.

They received a round of applause when they walked into the bullpen, everyone gathering around Ziva to see for themselves that she was alive and reasonably unharmed.  Gibbs wasn’t sure what to do about her, and he knew he wasn’t in any frame of mind to spend a lot of time thinking about it. Not until a shower. And sleep. With the time zone changes he wasn’t even sure how many hours he’d been up.

Vance was talking to Ziva and Abby was flitting around the edges of the conversation – not wanting to intrude, but unwilling to let her friend out of sight. Gibbs waved her over when she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him.

Abby was beaming when she landed in front of him.

“Hey Abs, this all happened pretty fast.  Ziva needs to see Ducky, but after that... Her last place in D.C. exp-“

“I already told her she could come stay with me until she’s back on NCIS’ payroll and she can get herself set up.” Abby smiled. She liked having the answer before Gibbs had finished speaking for once.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Abs. No one’s sure if Ziva’s coming back to NCIS,” Gibbs warned.

“She’s coming back,” Abby told him sternly.

Gibbs just rolled his eyes. They could have that discussion when Gibbs was sure what really was going to happen.

It was when Abby turned and Gibbs had to lean back to avoid a flying pigtail that Gibbs noticed Tony sitting behind his desk. He looked like shit. He glanced over to find McGee leaning on the wall, looking tired but pleased. It wouldn’t kill him to get checked over by Ducky and then go home and get some sleep.

Tony had been sick twice on the plane. Gibbs knew that transports weren’t Tony’s favorite way to fly, but he’d never had a problem with it before. Gibbs had tried to ask what was wrong after the second time, but Tony had just lay down across a couple of crappy canvas seats and turned to face the wall, ignoring him.

Truth was, no one really felt like talking on the flight. Tony had made one aborted attempt to start a conversation with Ziva, which had ended with his first round of vomiting. Gibbs had hoped they’d all get some sleep, but in the end only Ziva had nodded off. Gibbs had wondered if it was a good idea to let her sleep. She looked like she could very well have a concussion, but the truth was, he wouldn’t be able to do anything for her until she got back on the ground and he could try and sic a doctor on her. So he sat quietly until they were back home.

Tony looked like he needed to be horizontal sooner rather than later. Gibbs crossed to Tony’s desk and sat on it, trying to shield Tony discretely from the others’ view. “How about I get Ducky to have a look at you and then you can come home with me,” he said quietly.

“Don’t want to see Ducky,” Tony mumbled without making eye contact. “The guy on the plane said I wasn’t going to die of anything any time soon. That’s good enough for me.”

Gibbs sighed. It was true. The flight medic had cleared them all, but Gibbs knew that the abilities of a naval flight medic were severely limited. He’d convinced them all to drink a ton of water and he’d bandaged McGee’s head and that had been about all he’d been able to do. And he really wanted Ducky to be busy with someone else.

“Get your gear,” Gibbs ordered as he headed for the elevator. It was time to get Tony out of there. He could keep an eye on Tony unless it looked like more than just few bruises and a severe lack of sleep.

In the car, Tony remained silent. Since the whole debacle with Rivkin’s death, Tony had been calmer, quieter, but not so much that Gibbs had started to worry. Tonight Gibbs started to worry.

They hit a bump in the road and Tony grunted, shifting in his seat. Gibbs looked over and he swore he saw tear tracks on Tony’s cheeks. He’d seen Tony through some pretty miserable times, but he couldn’t remember ever having seen him cry. He reached over and took Tony’s hand in his, “What?”

“Not now,” Tony ground out between his teeth. “Please don’t ask a lot of questions right now.”

Gibbs glanced over again. That wasn’t Tony’s usual way of deflecting uncomfortable conversations. “I am about two seconds from turning this car around and taking you to Bethesda,” Gibbs warned.

“I’m not hurt. Not… seriously.” Tony shifted enough to give Gibbs a weak smile in the orange streetlight streaming in. “You’ve hit me harder than Ulman did.”

“Uh-huh,” Gibbs said, and yet that agreement made Tony acutely aware that Gibbs wasn’t buying it.

“How long does sodium pentathol stay in a person’s body?” Tony asked, trying to make it sound like he was changing the subject. Asking random questions.

Gibbs slammed on the breaks and pulled over to the side of the road. “Pentathol? That’s it, we’re going to Bathesda.”

Tony tried to think of something, anything he could say that would keep Gibbs from turning around and heading back towards the hospital.

“That bastard was shooting you up with something and you didn’t think that merited a mention?” Gibbs grip on the steering wheel was threatening to cause dents.

“I figured it’d be out of my system by now?” Tony tried.

“Bullshit,” Gibbs answered bluntly. “If that were the case you wouldn’t be asking me if it should be out of your system by now!” Gibbs was shouting as he peeled into a U-turn from the shoulder of the road and headed back the way they’d come.

“I just… stuff that fucks with my head… I just wasn’t sure if I was talking because I wanted to or because, you know… I had to.” Tony cursed himself for bringing it up in the first place. Maybe it was still working on him after all, if he thought even mentioning it to Gibbs was a good idea.

“What do you want to talk about?” Gibbs said as he continued towards the hospital.

Tony sighed. He suspected there was no getting around the blood test and the physical he’d inadvertently set himself up for. “Ziva,” he said after a minute deciding that it didn’t matter why he wanted to talk, just that he did. He desperately wanted to know if Gibbs had a better understanding of where things stood than he did.

“Abby will make sure Ducky has a look at her. The medic on the plane seemed to think that she was a little battered, but not critically,” Gibbs said.

“Yeah,” Tony agreed, but that wasn’t the issue that had his brain chasing itself around in circles.

“But?” Gibbs prodded.

“We risked everything. For the first time we brought McGee into a situation that we knew could lead to him being tortured or killed, because we thought it was worth it. You and me? We’ve been there and done that. But McGee? He does fine in undercover stuff that means getting information or planting a bug or something. We’ve always kept him out of the stuff that leads to getting the shit beaten out of you more likely than not. But we said Ziva was worth it.”

“Uh-huh. McGee wasn’t the only one willing to get the shit beaten out of him,” Gibbs said, knowing that Tony would accept his pain as part of the plan, but wouldn’t see that he’d actually taken the brunt of it for his partner.

“We thought it was worth the risk,” Tony said quietly.

“And now? You don’t think it was?” Gibbs prodded.

“Sometimes you have to be willing to risk it all,” Tony said, frowning as Gibbs turned down the street that would take them to the hospital. “It’s just hard when… when it seems like what you were willing to take the risk for wasn’t there after all.”

“But she was there,” Gibbs said, not sure what Tony’s point was.

“Physically,” Tony said bluntly. “But Gibbs, you weren’t there when they brought her in. She was willing to die. She wanted to die. She thanked McGee for coming after her. Asked McGee and only McGee if he was okay. I think she would have willingly let Ulman slit my throat.” There was a long pause. “I know she doesn’t trust me any more. I didn’t think she hated me.”

Gibbs sighed as they pulled up to the trauma center at Bethesda. “She wouldn’t say much of anything on the flight back, but I get the impression that she’s not exactly… okay,” Gibbs tapped his temple. “You know? Try not to judge her until we know how bad the PTSD is. Yours and hers.”

“I don’t have PTSD,” Tony grumbled before hiking a thumb at the building as Gibbs parked the car. “And this is totally unnecessary. I’m fine.”

Gibbs killed the engine.  He knew Tony would have to clear a psych evaluation before he came back to work.  He'd let them have the PTSD arguement with him.  “I didn’t sic Ducky on you for two reasons. One, I wanted him on Ziva’s case. Physically and psychologically. Two, I thought you were just a bit bruised and exhausted and you’d be able to sleep it off, and I’d keep an eye on you until such time that I thought it was more than being bruised and exhausted. You being shot up with some whack-job’s truth serum? That qualifies as ‘more’. The fact that you brought it up at all makes me think it’s still working on you. Because you know damn well, I’m not going to let something like that slide.” He reached up and gently stroked the back of Tony’s head. “So let’s go get this over and get home to bed.”

Tony frowned at the bright lights of the emergency entry. “Was it worth the risk, boss?”

Gibbs pulled Tony down and kissed his temple. “It’s probably going to be a few weeks before we know for sure, Tony. But look at this way, could we have lived with ourselves if we hadn’t done something?”

Tony didn’t answer, but he did feel a little better with that perspective. “I have to do this?”

Gibbs opened his car door. “Yep, so let’s get it over with.”

Tony sighed and followed.